BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Local veterans will now have their own solidified place in the Bridgewater community.

The Bridgewater Township Council voted unanimously March 2 to establish a veterans advisory committee to “support, recognize and honor the servicemen and women of all branches of the armed forces of the United States of America.”

Mayor Matthew Moench said prior to the vote that the committee was something the township did not already have, although some other towns did. He also said he hoped the establishment of the committee would encourage people in the community to volunteer their time to it.

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“There’s a lot we can do with this,” said Moench, who also said that appointments to the committee will be made in the coming weeks.

At the council’s agenda session Feb. 27, Moench had said that putting together a veterans committee was “certainly timely.”

“It’s important to have a committee dedicated to veterans issues,” he said.

He said he believes there are a lot of things the committee could accomplish, and hopes to get a “nice mix” of members, while also possibly coordinating efforts with existing organizations.

“It’s a significant step, to honor those who are here," said Moench, “to give those veterans an opportunity to serve their community, to be engaged and involved.”

Michele Smith, a local U.S. Marine Corps veteran who has traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak to Congress on behalf of veterans, spoke on Feb. 27 of special needs for female veterans, including trauma-induced care and military sexual trauma, along with mental health and other issues. She also said that not all victims were women, and not all perpetrators were men.

She also thanked the council for establishing the veterans committee.

“I look forward to working with you all,” said Smith.

The prior week, Smith said that the new committee could “help work on systemic issues,” including working with veterans, their families and active duty personnel.

She suggested that at public meetings where veterans were present, a veteran could be chosen to lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

“It’s a good way to start,” said Smith.

She also suggested that the township determine how many of its employees were veterans, and then put their photos on the walls, ostensibly at town hall, to honor them. She also said there will be an influx of veterans coming back to the United States, from current overseas conflicts, and they would be looking for a place to settle.

Smith then said that the council should meet with the veterans health care administration, to teach police officers how to deal with veterans who might be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, sexual assault, schizophrenia and the like, with the onset of schizophrenia usually occurring in individuals who are between the ages of 18 and 24, or the time of most military service.

“We can work on this,” said Smith. “We can make the community better for veterans, and do it for the veterans, every minority, population and sex, and make every person feel like they matter.”